Friday 23 August 2019

Pressure mounts on Salazar to deliver response

Mo Farah's PR team eased the pressure on him but there are plenty of questions for others

Mo Farah took a hiding from the media last week, especially when it was revealed that he had missed two drugs tests before London 2012 (Barry Coombs/PA Wire)
Mo Farah took a hiding from the media last week, especially when it was revealed that he had missed two drugs tests before London 2012 (Barry Coombs/PA Wire)

Sean Ingle

Mo Farah took a hiding from the media last week, especially when it was revealed that he had missed two drugs tests before London 2012.

But the release on Friday of a carefully calibrated statement, drafted by his recently appointed crisis-management PR team Freud's, has eased the pressure - for now. After another week of revelations and rumours, it is time to take stock of the key players in this saga:

Mo Farah

Crucially, Farah has now addressed the main issues head on, explaining that he had not missed any other tests in his career and had never taken performance-enhancing drugs. He also offered a glimpse of his human side, insisting: "The last two weeks have been the toughest of my life - with rumours and speculation about me that are completely false - and the impact this has had on my family and friends has left me angry, frustrated and upset."

It is understood that Farah, who has never been accused of taking a banned substance, intends to stay out of the public eye until he races in Monaco on July 17, although he will release a statement after his coach, Alberto Salazar, has responded to the doping allegations made by Panorama.

Alberto Salazar

Despite rumours that Farah was in the process of separating from the coach who turned him into the best 5,000m and 10,000m runner in the world, Salazar remains very much in charge. For while Farah is now training at altitude in Font Romeu in France, the American coach is still setting his daily programme and calling the shots. "Mo is on a different training cycle, as he always is at this time of year," Salazar told the Oregonian newspaper. "So I send him to Europe to get accustomed to the time zone. This is how we've always done it."

On Friday Farah revealed that Salazar has also "reassured me that the claims [against him] are false and that he will soon be providing evidence to make that clear". But it is nearly two weeks since Salazar asked for a "short time" to deliver his riposte to the allegations made by Panorama and the ProPublica website and we are still waiting. The rumours are he will do it before the US trials, which start on Thursday.

UK Athletics

UK Athletics believes that missed doping tests are a matter for the UK Anti-Doping Agency and so remained silent over Farah's two missed drugs tests. Indeed, there has been little publicly from the governing body since Ed Warner, chair of UKA, appeared on Radio 5 Live's Sportsweek last Sunday to talk about the independent review it has set up to investigate its relationship with Salazar.

Privately, however, it is understood some in the organisation are happy that Farah is now training in Font Romeu under the guidance of UK Athletics' head of endurance, Barry Fudge, rather than in Portland.

Publicly they remain firmly behind Salazar, who serves as an unpaid consultant, with Warner urging people to "wait for a few weeks to see all the facts and see how things settle, and that is what we are doing", adding: "Alberto is innocent until proven guilty. The right thing is to be swift but not hasty."

UK Anti-Doping Agency

Usually when UKAD speaks to the media it is dry and procedural. But that was not the case in the wake of the revelations about Farah's missed tests in midweek, with the chief executive, Nicole Sapstead, admitting it was "not common for athletes to have two missed tests" and the director of legal, Graham Arthur, explaining: "We have got a pretty detailed protocol for doping control officers to follow when they conduct an in-hours test - and they include ringing the doorbell every 10-15 minutes or so, knocking and staying there for the full hour."

It has been suggested that UKAD should be more open about how often it tests athletes - the US Anti-Doping Agency has a searchable database of athletes which shows their tests each quarter - but UKAD says this would be difficult to achieve in the UK because of data privacy issues and it "would add significantly to our workload".

Galen Rupp

Mo Farah's training partner has not spoken publicly about the allegations against him, including that he took testosterone from the age of 16, since emailing a short comment on the morning after the Panorama programme to a handful of journalists. In it he claimed: "I expressly told these reporters that these allegations were not true and their sources admit they have no evidence, yet they print 'suspicions' attacking me and sullying my reputation. That is inexcusable, irresponsible journalism."

Since then Rupp has stayed out of the limelight but last week confirmed he would be running the 5,000m and 10,000m at the US world championships trials, which start on Thursday.

Inevitably there will be a huge amount of focus on him - and pressure, too. Rupp is likely to speak to the media but how will he cope with the most pointed questions?


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